26th Aug 2019

Slovakia takes a turn to the left

Slovakia has decided to turn the wheel from right to left, as the opposition Social Democrats emerged as a convincing winner of the country's Saturday (17 June) elections, the first ballot since EU membership in 2004.

The leftist party Smer (meaning "Direction") secured a third of the representation in the 150-seat Parliament and is likely to end the centre-right government of Mikulas Dzurinda, the longest-serving prime-minister in central Europe.

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  • Mr Fico plans to scrap the 19-percent flat tax and halt privatisation (Photo: European Commission)

Mr Dzurinda's SDKU party gathered 18 percent of votes, translated into 31 parliamentary seats, which is still a significant increase compared to the 2002 elections.

During his eight years in power, Mr Dzurinda took the 5.4 million people country from international isolation into the EU and NATO, carried out sweeping free-market reforms, secured record levels of foreign investment and turned Slovakia into one of Europe's fastest-growing economies.

Sacking reforms, building social welfare state

But despite these achievements, the voters turned to the leader of Smer Robert Fico.

Mr Fico has capitalized on reform fatigue and pledged to overturn many of the changes, saying they have benefited only the rich.

"There is a chance that Slovakia will strengthen solidarity and social justice.", Mr Fico said after the election night.

According to his programme, Mr Fico plans to scrap the 19-percent flat tax and fees for medical care and halt privatisation.

Meanwhile, economic analysts are sceptical about whether any government led by Mr Fico will be determined enough to bring Slovakia into the eurozone in 2009, as planned.

It also remains unclear what the stand of the Social Democrats will be on hot European issues, such as the fate of the European Constitution or further enlargement.

It appears, however, that leftist Smer is in favour of introducing labour market restrictions for future member states Romania and Bulgaria.

Horse-trading begins

But the Social Democrats failed to secure an outright majority and in order to govern they have to find allies among the five other parties entering high politics.

Mr Fico is expected to seek talks with the centre-right Christian Democrats and Ethnic Hungarians, the closest allies of Mr Dzurinda in the last two governments.

His other option is to team up with the centre-left HZDS party, headed by former autocratic prime minister Vladimir Meciar and the far-right National Party, although analysts see such a coalition as an unlikely scenario.

A German-style grand coalition between Mr Fico and Mr Dzurinda is also viewed as unlikely since the outgoing prime minister said he will not participate in the destruction of hard-won reforms.

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